David, Moderator posted:
I would say that, in the "the"-less version, the name of the instrument is being used as a noncount noun. It is being pressed into noncount usage, just as we sometimes press noncount nouns into count usage (e.g., "poetries").
There are other phrases in which the names of instruments are sometimes used as if they were noncount nouns. For example, we can say, "I am hearing too much piano in this passage. Can you please play softer?"
That's a very interesting observation, David.
I have to say that, having been educated in BrE rather than in AmE, just like Apple I used to find the article more usual. With the verb "play," there are indeed cases where the instrument clearly refers to the music produced rather than to the instrument as an object, and in those cases several quantifiers can be used to refer to the frequency of playing (and the "amount of music" generated):
- He plays more piano than guitar in that song. (Also: He plays (the) piano more than (the) guitar in that song.)
- There's a lot of trumpet in that song.
With other verbs and patterns, the article seems to be required.
- I'm tired of the piano. (I'm going to play some guitar.)
- I like the piano more than the guitar.